The Improper Pig at Cotswold puts a core of meats – pulled pork, sliced brisket, pulled chicken, smoked andouille sausage and smoked tofu – at the center of a menu with more range than you’d expect from the ready-for-my-franchise-deal decor and feel of the place. They come on platters, plates, in straightforward sandwiches and in pimento-cheese nachos, in salads with roasted sweet potatoes or beets or black beans. And there are a handful of other proteins, too: ribs and rib-eye, smoked half chicken and Korean-sauced salmon. The idea’s from Stomp, Chomp & Roll, a group that has been involved with Pizza Peel, Flying Biscuit and Moe’s.
Best of protein-bearing things was the Wow Bao Taco (make bao rhyme with wow), a riff on the Chinese cha siu bao: pork (you can also choose chicken, brisket or tofu) on a steamed, slightly sweet, slightly puffy “bun,” with spicy hoisin sauce and slaw. Lots of flavor helped the pork, which was definitely on the dry side.
The place’s selection of sauces also includes a sweet/spicy traditional, an Eastern-style and a mustard one, plus versions dubbed Korean, Thai and teriyaki. You’ll want to try them, and use at least one liberally. A half chicken, smoked, had more moisture than the pork, though not much more flavor. Wings were OK, and go for $10 a pound, in our case eight wings.
Better than any of those were the ahi tuna appetizer – seared, clean-flavored and served over slaw; not bad – and what’s called BBQ Kale Chips, kale torn into pieces and roasted with ancho-barbecue seasoning. Have a beer with them (great to see several Charlotte breweries’ offerings on draft); they have some bite. Servers know preparations and have a friendly, casual vibe.
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Entrees about $9.50-$24, sandwiches $6.50-$12. 110 S. Sharon Amity Road; 704-714-7878; www.theimproperpig.com.
The Tiki Hideaway hits you first with a sprightly decor in a tiny space: Blowfish pendant lights are a subtlety next to the barback: An Easter-Island-style head with bottles of rum where his teeth should be, plus backlit stylized art of a South Pacific beach and jungle-y leaves; carved-wood designs on the walls and tiki-hut thatched roofing in spots support the Polynesian idea. No one ordered the Scorpion bowl for four (described as “32 ounces of fun and possible predicaments” with four kinds of rum, gin, vodka and juices of pomegranate, orange, lemon and pineapple) on our visit, so we didn’t get to see press-released-promised lightning and ground-rumbling.
The signature cocktail list is a sort of Twister game of rums and citrus juices, in which those two each touch one or two or five or six other ingredients in just about every drink. There’s a classic Mai Tai (rums, orgeat – think almond syrup – and lime/orange/etc.) and a few other things, and a planter’s punch, and of course a Zombie (with the helpful recommendation: “Keys, please!”).
Our visit suggests the bar menu got ironed out before the food. Drinks were sweet but fine, while the food had a range of difficulties, from an undercooked slow-cooked egg (white barely even translucent in places) to flavors battling. Sunflower hozon – think miso, but with sunflower instead of soy – dulled already dull chunks of short rib, and grilled ginger cabbage didn’t lift it; tuna poke – think Hawaiian tartare – needed seasoning, and taro chips leaned to the greasy side, though plantain chips fared well, and the spicy cilantro salsa with them was quite nice. The menu leans to small plates ($3-$15), so plan on two or three per person.
1600 E. Woodlawn Road; 704-557-0474; thetikihideaway.com.